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Saint-Aventin Church

31110 ST AVENTIN
 
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Saint-Aventin Church

This church, restored in the 19th Century, is one of the finest examples of Early Southern Romanesque in the Comminges: rubble-stone building materials, eastern belfry resembling a campanile and typical Lombard bands around the apse. The whole structure (except for a part of the east belfry, the west belfry and the later carvings outside) dates from the first half of the 11th Century.
The size and importance of the building are explained by the fact that it contains the relics of saint Aventin, the martyred saint of the Larboust Valley, and became a place of pilgrimage.
The decoration of the porch, carved on a wall built a hundred years earlier, is a Christ in Majesty, the most common of the themes used on Romanesque tympana. The almond-shaped mandorla framing the scene is surrounded by the symbols of the Four Evangelists, each carried by an angel, which is an unusual design. Only the double inner capitals illustrate a story, those on the right relating the martyrdom by beheading of saint Aventin.
The fragments of sculpture dispersed all along the south wall suggest that there must have been a second collection of sculptures. To the right of the door, for instance, a small slab shows a Virgin in Majesty, clearly the work of a master-sculptor. Mary is seated on a throne whose uprights are shaped like mythical beasts. She is richly dressed and very formal, showing the Infant while treading monstrous creatures underfoot.

The construction plan is based on that of Roman basilicas with three naves, a central nave and two narrower lateral ones, ending with an apse and apsidal chapels. The church had no painted decoration until more than a century after it was built. The oldest paintings are placed on either side of the central window: saint Sernin (or Saturnine), the martyr of Toulouse, and saint Aventin. Each of them is associated symbolically with a bull.
The sculptor of the tympanum has also created a bas-relief showing the discovery of the tomb of saint Aventin by a bull. This work is currently sited outside on a buttress.

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31110 ST AVENTIN
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